Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Media Guidelines for Kids of All Ages


Media Guidelines for Kids of All Ages

                      Tips for making sure your children's screentime is healthy 


Rachel Ehmke

Senior Writer


Parents used to just worry about kids watching too much TV, or playing too many video games. We still worry about those things, but now the list has gotten much longer. Phones, tablets, apps, social media, texting—they all can captivate kids (and adults) starting at a very young age. What's a parent to do? Going back to bed isn't an option, but taking a deep breath and advocating rational moderation is. Here are some tips, broken down by age group, to get you started.


Very young children (0-4)

- Limit exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding television and other entertainment media for children under two years. "A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens," the pediatricians say.


- Start leading by example early. Even before your child has a phone or tablet of her own, show her how they should be used. Don't check your messages at the dinner table. Look at people when they're talking to you—not at your phone. Remember that your children are always watching you and young children notice everything—that's how they learn.


- Don't underestimate the value of traditional toys and open spaces.It's important for kids to experience unstructured "free play," which means that they decide what to do, and how to do it, and are playing simply for play's sake—not to get to the next level in a game, or learn some specific skill. Children should experience the fun of making up their own rules—and breaking them—as they go along. This kind of play lets kids:

·         Move at their own pace, instead of being driven (or hurried) along by fast-moving media

·         Develop creativity

·         Get experience making decisions

·         Practice sharing and working with others

·         Learn to be a leader and self-advocate

Apps—however educational they claim to be—are no substitute for the kind of learning that comes to kids naturally if we let it.


- Do leave the tablet at home. While they're helpful during a long car or plane ride, tablets and other devices are out of place in the stroller or car on the way to preschool. It's important for kids to have the opportunity to look around them and find entertainment (not to speak of learning) in the real world, too. And they should not be part of play dates!


Grade school age kids (5-11

- Watch things together. If you're worried that your kids are getting bad messages from the media, the best way to counteract them is to watch alongside your kids and point out when something isn't right. Call out a female character if she only seems to care about boys, or how she looks. Provide context if you are seeing unhealthy relationships (including friendships) or unrealistic beauty standards. Besides reinforcing your values, this will teach your kids to watch television and movies actively, not passively, which is good for their self-esteem. Do this during commercials, too!


- Screentime shouldn't be all the time. The AAP says that children and teens should only be using entertainment media for two hours or less a day, and also stresses that that media should be of "high quality."


- Be discerning. Determining what is high quality and what isn't might not be obvious, but look out for things that:

·         Are age-appropriate

·         Engage your child's imagination

·         Have the right values.

Conversely, if you don't want your child playing a particular game, explain your reasons why and be specific—don't just say it's "bad."


- Don't make screens the reward (or consequence). Technology is enormously appealing to kids as it is, but when we make screentime the go-to thing kids get for good behavior—or get taken away for bad behavior—we're making it even more desirable, thereby increasing the chances that a child will overvalue it.  


- Encourage other activities. There are many ways to have fun. Running around outside, playing a sport, reading books, doing crafts—variety is important for a balanced life. Encourage your kids to develop a wide range of interests. Model yourself doing this, too. Let your kids see you reading a book and making things and having a hobby. Finally, present these things as just as rewarding as screentime—not alternatives to it. Equal billing is important.


- Be prepared for them to discover porn. Even if they're not exactly looking for it, kids today can stumble onto pornography very easily. Curiosity is often a big motivator, so don't be shy about having some frank, developmentally appropriate talks about sex. If they hear it from you then they'll be less likely to turn to the Internet for answers, and they'll be more likely to ask you to explain what they see online or hear from friends. And if they do see porn, let them know what they saw was no more realistic than any other movie.


Tweens and teens (12+)

Keep modeling good tech behavior. It's easy to let things slide once kids are older and have their own devices, but remember that the old rules still apply. Don't use your phone at the table and make sure your kids don't need to compete with a screen for your attention. Besides setting a good example, this shows them that you care and are interested, which makes them more likely to open up. Even though they're getting older, your kids still need to talk to you, not just their friends.


- Encourage privacy. Once you've turned 13 you are allowed to get an account on Facebook and most other social media websites and apps (some kids cheat and get them earlier). Whatever age your family decides is appropriate for social media, make sure that your child is very careful about privacy. Research privacy settings with her and make sure she understands when something is public or private—or somewhere in the middle—and how that should affect what she posts. As a general rule, she shouldn't share anything online that she wouldn't be comfortable with the entire world reading. Including her grandmother.


- Yes to friending, no to spying. If your child is on social media, developmental psychologist Donna Wick of Mind to Mind Parent recommends that you follow or friend him, and monitor his page. But she advises against going through text messages unless there is cause for concern: "If you have a reason to be worried then okay, but it better be a good reason. I see parents who are just plain old spying on their kids. Parents should begin by trusting their children. To not even give your kid the benefit of the doubt is incredibly damaging to the relationship. You have to feel like your parents think you're a good kid."


- Make it clear that naked pictures are a bad idea (and explain why).Sometimes kids think sharing photos is a way to build trust, but it can do the opposite just as easily. Your daughter might trust her boyfriend with her photos but he, in turn, might trust a close friend, and so on. Or she might trust him to delete the photos, but later finds out that he kept them on his phone, and people found them when they were scrolling through his pictures. These are some innocent ways the pictures could get into the wrong hands—there are a lot of less innocent ways they could, too. And once the pictures are out there, they can damage future relationships and job prospects, not to mention become the talk of the school.

Also, in case your kid doesn't know, if she is a minor, sharing naked pictures can get her and whoever she's sending them to in a lot of trouble for child porn, which is really not something she wants to mess with. 


- Texting can be tricky. Warn kids that it's easy for people to misinterpret messages when they aren't hearing the tone of your voice or seeing the expression on your face. Jokes, in particular, might seem mean. To guard against misunderstandings and hurt feelings, it's always a good idea to make it clear when you're joking.  

Published: Febrary 2, 2015








                                                                                               ALERT LETTER





  Media’s presence in children’s lives is totally ubiquitous. Today, American children spend almost six hours a day with media. The potentially negative consequences of children’s media consumption receive a lot of attention. Yet media’s unique power and reach can also be used to educate children and enrich their lives.

Television, which once dominated children’s media consumption habits, is now joined by computers, video game players, cell phones and other connected devices. The result is that children today are completely immersed in media experiences from a very young age.

 Using social media like Facebook and Twitter has become part of modern adolescence. According to the report Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives which is based on a survey of 1,030 13- to 17-year-olds, and conducted online by Knowledge Networks: A Gfk Company in 2012,  90% of all American teens have used social media, three-quarters of them have a social networking site, and nearly one in three teens visits their social networking profile several times a day or more.                                                     

 For the vast majority of teens, social and other digital communications media are a daily part of life. Two-thirds (68%) of teens text every day, half (51%) visit social networking sites daily, and 11% send or receive tweets at least once every day. In fact, more than a third (34%) of teens visit their main social networking site several times a day. One in four (23%) teens is a “heavy” social media user, meaning they use at least two different types of social media each and every day.

More than one in four teens say that using their social networking site makes them feel less shy (29%) and more outgoing (28%); one in five says it makes them feel more confident (20%), more popular (19%), and more sympathetic to others (19%); and 15% say it makes them feel better about themselves. By comparison, only 5% say social networking makes them feel less outgoing; 4% feel worse about themselves, less confident, and less popular after using their social networking site; and 3% feel shyer.

Despite their love of new technology and their seemingly constant text messaging, teens’ favorite way to communicate with their friends is still to talk with them face to face. As one teen girl noted, “It’s the only REAL way to be with each other. ‘Moments’ only happen in person.” About half (49%) of all 13- to 17-year-olds say they prefer to communicate with their friends in person, and half choose some other method. Texting is next highest, with a third of youth preferring that method (33%). Only 7% say their favorite way to communicate with friends is through a social networking site, and just 1% say Twitter. Only 4% of teens prefer talking on the phone as their favored way to communicate with friends.

One aspect of online life that can be particularly fun and particularly nerve-wracking for teens is the constant posting of photos. Am I attractive enough? Am I with the right people? Do I seem popular? Is somebody else going to post an awful photo of me? Most (59%) teen social media users either strongly or somewhat agree that they “love” posting photos of themselves online — with girls a lot more likely than boys to feel that way (75% of girls, compared to 42% of boys). At the same time, however, although a majority of teens “love” posting photos, putting pictures of themselves online does take an emotional toll on some teens. Forty-three percent of social media users strongly or somewhat agree that they sometimes feel left out or excluded after seeing pictures of other people together online; 35% say they worry about people tagging them in unattractive photos; 27% say they get stressed out about how they look when they post pictures; and 22% say they feel bad about themselves if nobody comments on or “likes” the photos they post. Among social network users, 17% have edited photos to make themselves look better before posting them online. And while girls are more likely than boys to love posting photos, they are also more likely to stress about it as well.


For the generation of youth in their teens today, social media are so intricately woven into the fabric of their lives that they don’t really know what life would be like without them. But despite our concerns about social media, in the vast majority of cases, these media do not appear to be causing great tumult in teenagers’ lives. The research showed that more than eight out of 10 teens  express an overall sense of happiness with their lives, feel self-confident, and get along well with their parents. And there is a steadiness in their belief that what happens on their social networking site makes no difference in terms of how they feel about themselves.

Of course, those who are immersed in social media may not be best positioned to assess whether it is having an impact on them or not. Parents need to keep a careful eye on the role of social media in teenagers’ lives, and they may offer critical insights and cautions.  The concerns are real: about privacy, bullying, hate speech, body image, and oversharing, to name a few. And we won’t know for a long time how the immediacy of digital communication may be shaping interpersonal relationships and social skills.

©Common Sense Media Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.


15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook



     15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook


Next-generation apps that let users text, video-chat, shop, and share their pics and videos are attracting teens like catnip.

Kelly Schryver 7/22/2014


Are teens totally over Facebook? Or are they using it even more than ever? Recent reports go back and forth on teens' favorite digital hangout, but the fact is that the days of a one-stop shop for all social-networking needs are over. Instead, teens are dividing their attention between an array of apps and tools that let them write, share, video-chat, and even shop for the latest trends.

You don't need to know the ins and outs of every app and site that's "hot" right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn't be trendy anymore). But knowing the basics -- what they are, why they're popular, and what problems can crop up when they're not used responsibly -- can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for your kid.

15 Social Media Tools Parents Need to Know About Now


Kik Messenger

Yik Yak


1. Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages -- called "tweets" -- and follow other users' activities.

Why it's popular
Teens like using it to share quick tidbits about their lives with friends. It's also great for keeping up with what's going on in the world -- breaking news, celebrity gossip, etc.

What parents need to know

·         Public tweets are the norm for teens. Though you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2013). Talk to your kids about what they post and how a post can spread far and fast.

·         Updates appear immediately. Even though you can remove tweets, your followers can still read what you wrote until it's gone. This can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment.

·         It's a promotional tool for celebs. Twitter reels teens in with behind-the-scenes access to celebrities' lives, adding a whole new dimension to celebrity worship. You may want to point out how much marketing strategy goes into the tweets of those they admire.

2. Instagram is a platform that lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos -- either publicly or with a network of followers.

Why it's popular
Instagram unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. Instagram also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

What parents need to know

·         Teens are on the lookout for "Likes." Similar to Facebook, teens may measure the "success" of their photos -- even their self-worth -- by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens post it to validate their popularity.

·         Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location info can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen's followers if his or her account is public. 

·         Private messaging is now an option. Instagram Direct allows users to send "private messages" to up to 15 mutual friends. These pics don't show up on their public feeds. Although there's nothing wrong with group chat, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles. Also, strangers can send private messages to users; kids then choose to open the message and view or discard the attached picture.

·         Mature content can slip in. The terms of service specify that users should be at least 13 years old and shouldn't post partially nude or sexually suggestive photos -- but they don't address violence, swear words, or drugs.


3. Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear.

Why it's popular
Snapchat's creators intended the app's fleeting images to be a way for teens to share fun, light moments without the risk of having them go public. And that's what most teens use it for: sending goofy or embarrassing photos to one another. Snapchats also seem to send and load much "faster" than email or text.

What parents need to know

·         Many schools have yet to block it, which is one reason why teens like it so much

·         It's a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away. (For example, the person on the receiving end can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears.) Snapchats can even be recovered. After a major hack in December 2013 and a settlement with the FTC, Snapchat has clarified their privacy policy, but teens should stay wary.

·         It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing inappropriate content.

4. Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It's a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or "tumblelogs," that can be seen by anyone online (if made public).

Why it's popular
Many teens have tumblrs for personal use -- sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends. Tumblelogs with funny memes and gifs often go viral online, as well

What parents need to know

·         Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos, depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.

·         Privacy can be guarded, but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the Internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they're able to password protect.

·         Posts are often copied and shared. Re-blogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post that's re-blogged from one tumblelog then appears on another. Many teens like -- and in fact, want -- their posts re-blogged. But do you really want your kids' words and photos on someone else's page?

5. Google+ is Google's social network, which is now open to teens. It has attempted to improve on Facebook's friend concept -- using "circles" that give users more control about what they share with whom.

Why it's popular
Teens aren't wild about Google+ yet. But many feel that their parents are more accepting of it because they associate it with schoolwork. One popular aspect of Google+ is the addition of real-time 
video chats in Hangouts (virtual gatherings with approved friends), and some schools may use Google Docs for classroom assignments. 

What parents need to know

·         Teens can limit who sees certain posts by using "circles." Friends, acquaintances, and the general public can all be placed in different circles. If you're friends with your kid on Google+, know that you may be in a different "circle" than their friends (and therefore seeing different information).

·         Google+ takes teens' safety seriously. Google+ created age-appropriate privacy default settings for any users whose registration information shows them to be teens. It also automatically reminds them about who may be seeing their posts (if they're posting on public or extended circles).

·         Data tracking and targeting are concerns. Google+ activity (what you post and search for and who you connect with) is shared across Google services including Gmail and YouTube. This information is used for targeting ads to the user. Users can't opt out of this type of sharing across Google services.

6. Vine is a social media app that lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips. This Twitter-owned service has developed a unique community of people who post videos that are often creative and funny -- and sometimes thought-provoking.

Why it's popular
Videos run the gamut from stop-motion clips of puzzles doing and undoing themselves to six-second skits showing how a teen wakes up on a school day vs. a day during summer. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and family.

·         What It's full of inappropriate videos. In three minutes of random searching, we came across a clip full of full-frontal male nudity, a woman in a fishnet shirt with her breasts exposed, and people blowing marijuana smoke into each other's mouths. There's a lot of funny, clever expression on Vine, but much of it isn't appropriate for kids.

There are significant privacy concerns parents need to know

·          The videos you post, the accounts you follow, and the comments you make on videos are all public by default. But you can adjust your settings to protect your posts; only followers will see them, and you have to approve new followers.

·         Parents can be star performers (without knowing). If your teens film you being goofy or silly, you may want to talk about whether they plan to share it.

7. Wanelo (Want, Need, Love) combines shopping, fashion blogging, and social networking all in one. It's very popular among teens, allowing them to discover, share, and buy products they like.

Why it's popular
Teens keep up with the latest styles by browsing Wanelo's "trending" feed, which aggregates the items that are most popular across the site. They can also cultivate their own style through the "My Feed" function, which displays content from the users, brands, and stores they follow.

What parents need to know

·         If you like it, you can buy it. Users can purchase almost anything they see on Wanelo by clicking through to products' original sites. As one user tweeted, "#Wanelo you can have all of my money! #obsessed."

·         Brand names are prominent. Upon registering, users are required to follow at least three "stores" (for example, Forever21 or Marc Jacobs) and at least three "people" (many are other everyday people in Wanelo's network, but there are also publications like Seventeen magazine).

·         There's plenty of mature clothing. You may not love what kids find and put on their wish lists. Wanelo could lead to even more arguments over what your teen can and can't wear.

8. Kik Messenger is an app-based alternative to standard texting that kids use for social networking. It's free to use but has lots of ads.

Why it's popular
It's fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you just use the basic features, making it decidedly more fun in many ways than SMS texting.

What parents need to know

·         It's too easy to "copy all." Kik's ability to link to other Kik-enabled apps within itself is a way to drive "app adoption" (purchases) from its users for developers. The app also encourages new registrants to invite everyone in their phone's address book to join Kik, since users can only message those who also have the app.

·         There's some stranger danger. An app named OinkText, linked to Kik, allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. There's also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users' full names) to contests.

·         It uses real names. Teens' usernames identify them on Kik, so they shouldn't use their full real name as their username.

9. Oovoo is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free. (The premium version removes ads from the service.)

Why it's popular
Teens mostly use Oovoo to hang out with friends. Many log on after school and keep it up while doing homework. Oovoo can be great for group studying and it makes it easy for kids to receive "face to face" homework help from classmates.

What parents need to know

·         You can only chat with approved friends. Users can only communicate with those on their approved "contact list," which can help ease parents' safety concerns.

·         It can be distracting. Because the service makes video chatting so affordable and accessible, it can also be addicting. A conversation with your kids about multitasking may be in order.

·         Kids still prefer in-person communication. Though apps like Oovoo make it easier than ever to video chat with friends, research shows that kids still value face-to-face conversations over online ones -- especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Still, they sometimes find it hard to log off when all of their friends are on.

10. Yik Yak is a free, location-aware, social-networking app that lets users post "anything and everything" anonymously through brief, Twitter-like comments, which are distributed to the geographically nearest 500 people who are also signed in to the app. 

Why it's popular
Kids can find out opinions, secrets, rumors, and more. Plus, they'll get the bonus thrill of knowing all these have come from a 1.5-mile radius (maybe even from the kids at the desks in front of them!).  

What parents need to know

·         It reveals your location. By default, exactly where you are is shown unless you toggle location sharing off. Each time you open the app, GPS updates your location.

·         It's a mixed bag of trouble. This app has it all: cyberbullying, explicit sexual content, unintended location sharing, and exposure to explicit information about drugs and alcohol.

·         Some schools have banned access. Some teens have used the app to threaten others, causing school lockdowns and more. It’s gossipy and sometimes cruel nature can be toxic to a high school environment, so administrators are cracking down. 

11. is a social site that lets kids ask questions and answer those posted by other users -- sometimes anonymously. 

Why it's popular
Although there are some friendly interactions on -- Q&As about favorite foods or crushes, for example -- there are lots of mean comments and some creepy sexual posts. This iffy content is part of the site's appeal for teens. 



What parents need to know

·         Bullying is a major concern. The British news website MailOnline reported that the site has been linked to the suicides of several teensTalk to your teens about cyberbullying and how anonymity can encourage mean behavior.

·         Anonymous answers are optional. Users can decide whether to allow anonymous posts and can remove their answers from streaming to decrease their profile's visibility. If your teens do use the site, they'd be best turning off anonymous answers and keeping themselves out of the live stream. 

·         Q&As can appear on Facebook. Syncing with Facebook means that a much wider audience can see those Q&As. 

12. WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

Why it's popular
The price is right; for teens who have a hard time keeping within the limits of a standard texting plan, the ability to send unlimited messages for free is a definite bonus.

What parents need to know

·         It's for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.

·         It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. Beyond that, the app often encourages you to add friends who haven't yet signed up.

·         Kids may need some limits. Although unlimited texting may save you cash, capping kids' communication can help them stay focused on the more important transmissions.

13. Omegle is a chat site (and app) that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or video chat room.

Why it's popular
Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. Its "interest boxes" also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know

·         Users get paired up with strangers. That's the whole premise of the app. And there's no registration required.

·         This is NOT an app for kids and teens. Omegle is filled with people searching for sexual chat. Some prefer to do so live. Others offer links to porn sites.

·         Language is a big issue. Since the chats are anonymous, they're often much more explicit than those with a user who can be identified might be.

14. Yo. is a bare-bones social app that sends a short text message to friends and family, simply reading "Yo" (and speaking the word aloud). That's it.

Why it's popular
This admittedly silly concept has taken off big-time since the app's release in mid-2014. Although it may not seem like much, this single word has the potential to let friends and family know you're thinking of them and just wanted to say, you know, "Yo."

What parents need to know

·         It's relatively harmless -- but watch out for hackers. The app's simple design and explosive popularity has made it a target for hackers.

·         Yo. may be a flash in the pan. Although your kid may be obsessed with sending "yo" greetings to everyone in her address book today, tomorrow could be a different story, as apps like this tend to have a shorter lifespan.

15. Whisper is a social "confessional" app that allows users to post whatever's on their minds, paired with an image.

Why it's popular 
With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.


What parents need to know

·         Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with someone nearby, while others post "confessions” of desire. Lots of eye-catching nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.

·         Content can be dark. People normally don't confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.

·         Although it's anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the "Meet Up" section.

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they should be fine. Take inventory of your kids' apps and review the best practices.

Websites Editor Polly Conway contributed to this story.
















©Common Sense Media Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

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